District bus terminal risks closure

The+boundaries+of+the+current+bus+terminal+on+Hudson+Boulevard+North+in+Lake+Elmo.+The+bus+terminal+is+at+risk+of+closing+following+a+Lake+Elmo+City+Council+meeting+in+January

Reprinted with permission from Lake Elmo Planning Commission

The boundaries of the current bus terminal on Hudson Boulevard North in Lake Elmo. The bus terminal is at risk of closing following a Lake Elmo City Council meeting in January

AJ Fierro, Online Editor

At a Lake Elmo City Council (LECC) meeting on July 17, 2018, the school district was given a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to operate a new bus terminal on their property in Lake Elmo. The permit came with conditions that needed to be completed by Oct. 31, 2019. However, the developer working with the district has failed to complete one of the conditions, and that may cause the district to lose their CUP and thus the ability to operate a bus terminal on the property.

“[Condition] #9, which is the extension of sewer and water, is not actually the district’s responsibility. When the district purchased the bus terminal on Hudson road, there was a purchase agreement that was entered into in a three way transaction between the school district, the developer, and the city of Lake Elmo. The school district completed the terms for the conditional use permit of which we were responsible. [Condition #9] is the running or the extension of sewer and water and was actually the developer’s responsibility,” said Kristen Holheisel, Executive Director of Finance and Operations for the district.

The district’s CUP came with several conditions. One of these, Condition #9, was that the district must connect the facility to city water and sewer systems, which the district failed to complete by the deadline. The district requested an amendment to Condition #9 that would allow them to operate the bus terminal until Dec. 31, using temporary sanitation systems, but the request was denied by the Lake Elmo City Council.

“The city denied our application to remain on property as is because they said ‘you didn’t meet #9’. Our plan now is to work with our legal counsel to determine remedies that would be sufficient to the city of Lake Elmo. I can’t discuss what those remedies are, but we are in conversation, not only with our legal counsels, but with both the developer and the city of Lake County to create remedies, which then we hope the city of Lake Elmo will give us a temporary permit until the sewer and water is extended,” Holheisel explained.

While a well could operate a sprinkler system for a very short time, it would not be enough water to provide the required amount to safely put out the fire”

— Alicia Lebens

Since the facility is not connected to sanitary sewer and water systems, there are several risks that influenced the LECC decision to deny the amendment. For example, the Fire Chief and Building Official expressed concern that the sprinkler system on the property is not connected to city water, presenting a significant hazard to people working in the building.

“While a well could operate a sprinkler system for a very short time, it would not be enough water to provide the required amount to safely put out the fire,” reporter Alicia Lebens wrote in an article for the Stillwater Gazette.

In addition to the safety concerns, the terminal is also within the boundaries of a MUSA district. Not being connected to city water and sewer systems is a violation of MUSA regulations, causing further problems for the district’s operation of the terminal on the property.

“They’re saying ‘we’re going to try to implement something with the school district that we’re not even requiring of all of our other business owners.’ That was discussed at that meeting. The standard is there for everybody, but they’re allowing some to not have done it yet, and they’re expecting us to have done it already,” Holheisel said.

During the July 17 meeting, the LECC stated,  “[The developer] had more than one year to construct the sanitary sewer and water facilities” and says that the district has failed to provide any written assurance that the construction of such facilities will commence “any time in the near future.”

“It was the developer’s financial commitment that if he didn’t do the project, the city still had money to do the project.We knew the project wasn’t happening, and the developer and the city of Lake Elmo were still working on the terms of the project, they denied our application to remain on property,” Holheisel said.

The district is now at risk to lose the right to operate their bus terminal on the property. The Lake Elmo commissioners expressed their sympathy for the district, as the district is at the mercy of the overall Four Corners developer who failed to provide the service which they agreed to provide.

“I have been searching for properties within the Stillwater attendance area. We have identified a potential site to be able to move some of our buses for a temporary situation. We might have buses parked in different areas of the school district to complete the school year. The hope is, given all of the conversations that are going on with the three entities, that even if they do revoke [the CUP], there will be a resolution within a year,” Holheisel said.

Lake Elmo City Council representatives declined an interview.